YUVA: Youth Transforming Our World

Iris C F Gomes

A non-governmental organisation made up of a crop of enthusiastic young people who function professionally in various spheres, YUVA has played an important role in Panjim during the lockdown due to COVID-19. Before that it was already, slowly but surely, working its way to building a better society through its many programmes, discovering and honing the potential in children, youth and women. This voluntary youth organisation, which was established on 27th December 2012, began its good work by organising a free health camp for people and was inaugurated by Mr Laxmikant Parsekar, the erstwhile Health Minister of Goa.

Founder and Vice President Raghuvir Mahale is an engineering graduate driven to make a difference. The idea of an organisation like YUVA emerged from his own experience of travelling through the length and breadth of Goa while employed with the Entrepreneurship Development Institution to promote government schemes and appreciate the significant role that youth play in the world today. He says, ‘The main motto behind YUVA is to serve society selflessly. We believe in giving back to society.

The organisation is not known to follow a particular agenda. The idea is to search out people with concerns or societal issues and then come together to discuss the problems, chalk out solutions and then implement them. YUVA has held free health camps for women and senior citizens with complementary medicines; there have been tree plantation and sapling distribution drives, relief work, and fund raising. The Swachh Bharat cleanliness and awareness drive was begun in 2014. Organising drawing competitions and cultural programmes, cleaning of statues, cleaning of Fonte Phoenix Spring, an eco-friendly Ganesh celebration (with a 15 foot Ganesh made of paper quilling), menstrual hygiene awareness, distribution of sanitary pads and sanitary pad vending machines, cricket and football tournaments, etc are also on the organisation’s list of achievements.

It is during the lockdown due to COVID-19 that YUVA came out as one of the many saviours of those in situations of deprivation and starvation, namely the elderly, labourers and the underprivileged. In this time of crisis, YUVA collaborated with the NGO One World to supply free home-cooked food to needy people in the city of Panaji and surrounding areas. A helpline was set up for this purpose. The food was cooked in the organisation’s own community kitchen and the food was made by YUVA members who are hotel management students. ‘Master Achut Mahale from Goa University played an important role in cooking tasty food for senior citizens and the needy. We packed the food hygienically and distributed it all around, maintaining social distancing with proper mask and protective gear,’ says Raghuvir. YUVA has been serving 150 meals for lunch and 150 for dinner each day since the 1st of April. Rehabilitation work commenced through distributing free ration to the underprivileged who had gas or kerosene for cooking. Those who did not have the same were connected with local governmental bodies for aid. Face shields were dispensed to the doctors at the Panaji Health Centre to protect them from Covid-19 transmission, as they are the front runners and extremely susceptible to the disease. Raghuvir rates YUVA an 8.5 out of 10 in terms of performance. He says, ‘1.5 less because I feel we could have done better if we had more youth from different organisations as volunteers to reach out to people in the surrounding areas of Panaji.’

The Nehru Yuva Kendra Award winning organisation requires no membership fees. Raghuvir urges like-minded youth to collaborate constructively with the aim of the betterment of society, contributing to the best of their abilities. YUVA’s objectives are to educate, create awareness, act and execute. The headquarters are based out of Mala, Panaji, and since 2019 there is an office set up in Panaji thanks to YUVA’s dynamic president Aakash Khaunte. 

Regarding youth who are searching for direction in their lives, Raghuvir says, ‘I always believe youth is a phase of life where we have boiling blood and if we don't channelise it the right way we will be lost forever. It can be social, entrepreneurial, etc. Like we have in other countries, youth should have to compulsorily go through physical or military training. I feel the time has come that every youth should realise the potential they have and do something beneficial towards nature, the people around and this world. I strongly believe in Swami Vivekananda’s saying “Youth! Arise, awake and know your strength. Stop not till the goal is reached”. This is the right time…we should all come together, leaving aside differences of religion, politics, etc to work as ONE for ourselves, our people, our society and our own world. It can be a small bit but small drops build a sea, and I feel youth has this strength to change the face of things when they intend to do so.’ This Goa State Youth awardee is concentrating on motivating more youth to start clubs and do similar work, transforming their corner of the world and supporting people.